GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 31-10
Presentation Time: 4:10 PM


GRIFFITHS, Paul A., P. A. Griffiths & Associates Inc., 544 Springbok Road, Campbell River, BC V9W 8A2, Canada,

Karst in the rainforests of coastal British Columbia (BC) hosts a sensitive three-dimensional environment with substantial integration between surface and subsurface components. Many natural and cultural resource values are associated with karst ecosystems in coastal BC including important linkages to water, fish, timber and mineral resources. Science-based sustainable land use planning and resource development are imperative in these temperate rainforest karst environments.

BC adopted a prescriptive ecosystem-based approach to managing karst in 1997. The new approach was supported with karst inventory standards and best practice guidelines for conducting forestry activities in karst and contributing non-karst catchment areas. In 2004 the BC government introduced legislation to support a three-year transition to an ambitious results-based regulatory framework for forest management, to be based in large measure on scientific knowledge, professional reliance, compliance monitoring and enforcement, and effectiveness evaluations. This new statutory and regulatory regime was anticipated to have profound implications for the protection and management of karst resources in coastal BC.

A decade later, doctoral research by the principal author suggests that forestry activities are resulting in sub-optimal outcomes at all levels of karst system organization, from individual karst resource features or elements to the greater karst catchment level. Dolines (karst sinkholes) of all sizes and other significant karst features are commonly clear-cut logged. The total catchment approach recommended in BC’s karst management guidance documents is as a rule not implemented. Research needed to implement the science which was to underpin the new regulatory regime has not been undertaken.

This presentation discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the current management regime, using case studies. The results cast doubt on the ability of industry players to self-regulate when it comes to managing karst resources. To ensure the public interest in karst protection and management of publicly owned karst resources is being met, BC may need to restore a measure of government involvement and decision-making authority to its regulatory framework, and provide appropriate/effective oversight.